Highlights of Brian's current Rotary International Trip.
Rio Carnaval

Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | Blocos + Desfile de Escola de Samba

The Biggest Party in the World, Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval

Carnaval (Portuguese for “carnival”) is a cultural event celebrated around the world. Held annually, typically forty-six days before Easter, Brazilian Carnaval is the country’s largest and well-known celebration. Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is the largest celebrated Carnaval and The Guiness Book of World Records (2010) claims Rio’s Caranaval as the biggest popular party on the planet.  Because of its attention and ability to draw a numbers of around 2 million people in the streets, the annual festival is a helpful boost to the Brazilian economy. Wikipedia states that “the consumption of beer [during Carnaval] accounts for 80% of annual consumption and tourism receives 70% of annual visitors.”

In addition to the large number of people in attendance, the celebration is infused with traditional samba music, cultural dance and a great sense of joy and happiness. Rio’s Carnaval celebration can be broken into two different parts.  First, there are Blocos which are large street block parties celebrating Carnaval. The other well-known part of the celebration is the elaborate samba school parade called, Desfile de Escola de Samba.

Blocos, “Street Carnival”

Even though Carnaval is forty-six days before Easter, the celebration begins almost a month prior with street parties called, “Blocos” (“Street Carnaval”).  There are more than 100 different blocos and several can be found throughout the city at different locations, all happening at the same time. Ranging from smaller blocos of a couple hundred people to larger blocos of a hundred thousand and even up to a couple million people in attendance. One thing that is great is that there is no fee or tickets you need to purchase to attend a bloco. Every bloco typically has a band (and if not a music sound system) on a moving truck. Everyone gathers in an area called the bloco’s “Concentration.” When the bloco commences, the sound system vehicle takes off and everyone follows it as they sing and dance. Many volunteer and participate in mini parade as the part of the bloco celebration where they use drums and additional instruments to bring more music to the celebration. Music consists of traditional samba and Carnaval songs called, Marchinha. Some blocos even perform their own theme song which they write and change from year to year. Lastly, many Rio locals say that it is “common sense” that blocos are a great place for singles where they could meet, kiss and hook up with others quite easily.  Since I have a girlfriend and couldn’t experience this first-hand, I did witness many couples kissing and hooking up which I assumed help validate this “common sense” claim.

Desfile de Escola de Samba, Samba School Parade

Even though many locals prefer to only celebrate Carnaval through the bloco experience, another side of the celebration is the samba school parade called, “Desfile de Escola de Samba.” This parade is more of a competition between samba schools which is held in a huge staduim called the Sambódromo. The  main competition runs two nights and many Brazilians watch it live on the television which is how I enjoyed watching it too. It was great to watch it live with my local friends and it was interesting learn about how much goes into this elaborate production. Each samba school performs for 80 minutes  and there are several different pieces and parts of their parade that I found mesmorizing. From the costumes, themes and numer of participants, to the music  and drums, each school is judged and graded on 10 different levels. It was no surprise to learn that many sacrifice to dedicate their whole year to preparing for this unforgetable event.  If you plan to attend this event, expect to pay a high price for a ticket depending on which day you attend. I hope you get a sense of what the parade consists of from the videos below:


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